Auditory System Hearing Testing Impairments Deaf Community

Many individuals who are deaf or profoundly hard of hearing choose to use manual communication, such as sign language, and to embrace their deafness as a part of who they are (rather than trying to replace or amplify a sense of hearing). These people are members of the Deaf community, and see deafness as a culture rather than a disability.

What is Deaf Culture?

Deaf culture is perpetuated by a group of individuals who have come together with deafness as a source of common ground and community. Members of Deaf culture differentiate between “lowercase ‘d’ deaf” and “capital ‘D’ Deaf;” “deaf” refers to deafness as a medical or physical condition, while “Deaf” refers to membership in Deaf culture or the Deaf community. Family members of Deaf individuals may identify with Deaf culture as well. Deaf culture also includes many clubs, organizations and social groups.

Culturally, Deaf individuals do not see themselves as having a disability, and do not wish to be labeled as disabled, handicapped or impaired. Many members of Deaf culture believe they were born Deaf for a reason, and see it as a component of personal identity. Consequently, they often choose not to use amplification devices to increase their ability to use hearing.

The Manual vs. Oral Communication Debate

Members of Deaf culture often wish to avoid being “mainstreamed” into the hearing world. Primarily, they wish to avoid being pressured or forced to use oral communication as a means of assimilation. Membership in Deaf culture is a source of pride, and allows Deaf individuals to join together through use of sign language; community values focus strongly on ASL and other signed languages as an important part of the culture. Some older members of Deaf culture still remember times when oral communication-based school programs forced children to use oral language, and even punished them for using sign.

Based on the views that members of the Deaf culture have on being Deaf and maintaining the use of sign language, it is easy to see why many of them are against cochlear implants, particularly for children. Members of the Deaf community have a strong sense of duty to educate hearing parents of deaf children about Deaf culture. Part of this education includes encouraging parents to allow the child to accept his Deaf identity (including use of sign language), rather than changing who he is by getting a cochlear implant to assimilate with the hearing world. However, not all members of Deaf culture feel this way; some believe it is up to each individual and family to make choices about cochlear implants and methods of communication.

Resources

ASLinfo.com (n.d.). Deaf culture. Retrieved February 4, 2010, from ASLinfo.com Web site: http://www.aslinfo.com/deafculture.cfm.

Cochlear War (n.d.). Introduction. Retrieved February 4, 2010, from Cochlear War Web site: http://www.cochlearwar.com/introduction.html.

Deaf Culture (n.d.). Defining deaf culture. Retrieved February 4, 2010, from Deaf Culture Web site: http://www.deafculture.com/definitions/.